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3 DNA Factors That May Be Sabotaging Your Fitness

author image Dan Reardon, MBChB
Dr. Dan Reardon is the CEO and co-founder of FitnessGenes and a medical doctor with an MBChB (the UK’s MD equivalent). He was an ER doctor for 10 years and has been a certified personal trainer for more than 15 years.
3 DNA Factors That May Be Sabotaging Your Fitness
Not seeing results? Your DNA may be why your exercise program isn't working. Photo Credit: Svisio/iStock/

According to a recent study done by UCLA, most diet efforts result in very short-term weight loss or even weight gain. We know that differences in peoples’ physical performance is determined by genetics and that these genetic differences directly affect exercise capacity, physiological adaptations and nutritional components.

Fat loss and muscle building doesn't follow a “one-size-fits-all” rule and identifying these individual differences reveals how people can be more efficient by following truly personalized programs and focused recommendations.

You might be making choices right now based on assumptions, but thanks to science, you can stop guessing and make some real progress to your goals.

Here are three key factors that everyone should know about their own DNA:

1. Carbohydrate Sensitivity (aka, carbohydrates are bad)

It seems that we’re in an era where carbohydrates are the “bad guys” and anyone looking to lose body fat are crash-lowering their carbohydrate consumption. However, based on an individual's DNA, this may not always be necessary and in some cases, have the reverse effect, resulting in weight gain.

One of the interesting genetically determined factors is how quickly you can switch between carbohydrate metabolism and fat metabolism. For those of you who can make this switch easily, it would not be necessary for you to drastically lower your carb intake when looking to drop body fat and get lean (assuming you're not over-consuming in the first place). However, if you’re slow in making this switch, your body will give preference to burning the readily available forms of carbs rather than targeting fat stores.

It’s vital to understand how your body processes your macronutrients so that you don’t cut out your favorite foods unnecessarily, and sometimes detrimentally.

2. Metabolic Efficiency (aka, a fast/slow metabolism)

One of the most common misunderstandings in the fitness community today is what is meant by having a “fast metabolism.” While most people may think that having a fast metabolism is desirable, it actually means that it’s ineffective, since energy you generate is lost as heat.

Consequently, this effects how you should manage your calorie intake when looking to increase muscle mass, or improve overall body composition.

If you do have a “fast metabolism,” the most significant considerations to make include:

  • Follow an exercise program suited to your individual genotype.
  • Ensure that you’re eating for performance.
  • Ensure that you’re eating adequately for recovery.

If you balance these three factors with personalised workout frequency and intensity, this is going to have a much greater benefit than just piling in as many calories as possible.

3. Training Frequency (aka, more exercise is better)

As well as identifying which training methods your body is built to follow, your genotype can also reveal how often you should train. Going to the gym every day might be doing more harm than good.

While some people have a high recovery rate and can train very frequently, it takes others longer to get back to the point of optimal muscle contraction, move resistance and power output.

Each time you step onto the gym floor, you need to make sure that your body is ready for the demands of the session. If you can only train at 70 percent, essentially it’s a waste of your time. Figuring out how much recovery you need, or don’t need, goes a long way to helping you maximize your results.

What Should I Do Next?

Finding out your DNA information is easier than you think. Fitness Genes is a company that uses a simple non-invasive saliva collection kit. Within three weeks of submitting your sample to their laboratory, you’ll have your genetic results and you can start putting this information into action. Or you can share the information with your personal trainer so that they can help you optimize your workouts and nutrition plan.

For the most part, we treat our fitness activities simply by experimenting with programs and nutrition that we hope will work. But knowing your genotype isn’t a far-flung future technology. Science is ready to deliver advice that removes the experimentation and will help you choose nutrition and exercise that is optimized for you.

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